March 17, 2019 – An inflatable space antenna and a solar sail material test are among 16 small research satellites from 10 states NASA has selected to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard space missions planned to launch in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
The selections are part of the tenth round of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. CubeSats are a type of spacecraft called nanosatellites, often measuring about four inches on each side and weighing less than three pounds, with a volume of about one quart. CubeSats are built using these standard dimensions as Units or “U,” and are classified as 1U, 2U, 3U, or 6U in total size.
Launch opportunities include planned spaceflight missions led by NASA, other U.S. government agencies or commercial organizations, as well as deployments from the International Space Station. The CubeSats were proposed by NASA centers, educational institutions or nonprofit organizations.
The spacecraft are eligible for placement on a launch manifest, depending on the availability of a flight opportunity. After launch, satellites will perform technology demonstrations, conduct scientific investigations or provide educational benefits.
The organizations and their CubeSats selected during this round are:
- Arizona State University, Tempe – Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat (SPARCS) is a scientific investigation mission to monitor the flares and stellar activity of small M-type stars, or red dwarfs, in the far- and near-ultraviolet region. Studying and understanding the environments of these stars can help assess the evolution and habitability of their space environment for planets in orbit.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge – BeaverCube is an educational mission to introduce high school students, nationwide, to aerospace science and technology through designing a 3U CubeSat. Its science payload will measure cloud properties, ocean surface temperatures and ocean color to study Earth’s climate and weather systems. BeaverCube also will demonstrate an application for the use of shape memory alloy technology via on-orbit calibration.
- Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana – SigNals of Opportunity P-band Investigation (SNoOPI) is a scientific investigation mission to demonstrate the measurement of the complex reflection coefficient over various land surface conditions for use in future CubeSat constellations. The technology will measure snow and soil moisture, which are vital data for applications like food security and water resources management. SNoOPI will be the first on-orbit demonstration of the P-band signals of opportunity technique and will advance the prototype instrument to Technology Readiness Level 7.
- The Aerospace Corporation, Los Angeles, California – Daily Atmospheric Ionospheric Limb Imager Mission (DAILI) is a scientific investigation mission that studies dynamic changes in Earth’s neutral/ionosphere density in the ~140 km – 290 km altitude region. The wide spatial and temporal distribution of the data provided by DAILI over the course of its mission will improve the accuracy of operational models for both the neutral density and the ionosphere, and will help further the study of wave propagation and transport processes in the lower thermosphere.
- University of Arizona, Tucson – CatSat is a technology and science demonstration mission that will be used to deploy and demonstrate an inflatable one-meter spherical antenna in Earth’s orbit. The inflatable antenna will be used to communicate to ground at ~50 Mbps and transmit HD video in real time. A second, identical camera is onboard and will be used to image and verify deployment of the inflatable antenna. A secondary goal of the mission will be to deploy a whip antenna to measure Earth’s ionosphere.
- University of Colorado at Boulder
- Compact Total Irradiance Monitor Flight Demonstration (CTIM FD) is a technology demonstration mission of a next-generation Compact Total Irradiance Monitor that will help to provide an understanding of Earth’s climate change. Incoming radiant energy from the sun is measured as the total solar irradiance, which is a natural factor that changes our climate (also called a climate forcing). Total solar irradiance has been measured from space by a 40-year, uninterrupted sequence of instruments. CTIM will allow measurements to be made with the same accuracy and long-term stability while using a much smaller instrument.
- CubeSat Inner Radiation Belt Experiment (CIRBE) is a scientific investigation mission to understand the formation of the inner belt electrons, and to determine the source, intensity, and dynamic variations of these electrons in the inner Van Allen radiation belts. No instrument traversing the heart of the inner radiation belt is immune to effects from highly energetic proton contamination.
- University of Florida, Gainesville – Drag De-Orbit Device CubeSat (D3) is a technology demonstration mission that will validate a new low-Earth orbit drag modulating device and related guidance and control algorithms. It will allow the ballistic coefficient of a spacecraft to be manipulated to affect the spacecraft’s orbit lifetime. It will target a desired location at the re-entry interface, potentially replacing conventional altitude and control systems on missions.
- University of Hawaii at Manoa – Hyperspectral Thermal Imager (HyTI) CubeSat Mission is a technology demonstration mission designed to demonstrate how high spatial resolution (60 m ground resolution element), high spectral resolution (25 bands) and long-wave infrared image data can be acquired to monitor water resources using a 6U CubeSat. HyTI will map irrigated and rainfed cropland, determine crop water use and establish crop water productivity of major world crops.
- University of Wisconsin-Madison – Polar Radiant Energy in the Far Infrared Experiment (PREFIRE) is a science investigation mission that will attempt to fill important gaps in our knowledge of the Arctic energy budget by exploring the role of Far-Infrared radiation in Arctic warming, sea ice loss, ice sheet melt and sea level rise. The two spacecraft will take identical Thermal Infrared Spectrometer measurements of Earth’s polar radiant thermal energy that will be incorporated into current ice sheet process models and global climate models.
- Weiss School, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida – CapSat-1 is an educational mission to establish a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program featuring a hands-on, research-focused approach, to foster student’s natural curiosity and to facilitate excellence via individual and team competitions. CapSat will measure capacitance and the discharge rate of capacitors as a function of time to test the efficiency of using capacitors as an electrical power system in place of lithium-ion batteries.
- Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut – Bouchet Low-Earth Alpha/Beta Space Telescope (BLAST) is a scientific investigation mission to map the distribution of galactic cosmic radiation across the night sky. The satellite will identify and count alpha particles and beta particles in the rays, and measure the radiation energy around Earth. BLAST will contribute to the ongoing search for the origins and nature of these rays, which will provide insight into the origins of the universe.
- NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California – Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3) is a technology demonstration designed to characterize solar sail structures technologies for future small spacecraft to engage in deep space missions requiring long-duration, low-thrust propulsion. The deployable composite boom and solar sail technologies demonstrated will guide the development of a larger mission-capable CubeSat-class solar sail propulsion system to be demonstrated in the 2025 timeframe.
- NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
- BurstCube is a scientific investigation mission designed to autonomously detect gamma ray bursts (GRBs) onboard and rapidly downlink data to maximize chances of detecting fading broadband afterglows. It will increase the likelihood of coincident detection and the number of short GRBs that can be correlated with gravitational wave signals. BurstCube will provide astrophysical context, evidence of extreme physical process and rare, dramatic end-stage stellar evolution.
- Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit Satellite to Study Radiation Belt Dynamics (GTOSat) is a scientific investigation mission with the goal of advancing our quantitative understanding of acceleration and loss of relativistic electrons in the Earth’s outer radiation belt. It will simultaneously measure electron spectra and pitch angles of both the seed and the energized electron populations, using a compact, high-heritage Relativistic Electron Magnetic Spectrometer.
- Plasma Enhancement in The Ionosphere-Thermosphere Satellite (petitSat) is a scientific investigation mission designed to provide in-situ measurements of plasma density, 3D ion drift, as well as ion and neutral composition. It will determine the conditions under which Medium-Scale Traveling Ionosphere Disturbances (MSTIDs) generate large plasma enhancements, which can interfere with radio waves used for communication and navigation.
To date, the CubeSat Launch Initiative has selected 176 CubeSat missions from 39 states and launched 85 CubeSat missions as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) through NASA’s Launch Services Program.